Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Letters from Alvina Krause: Fall 1979

Because she wanted me to have full directorial control of the production of Misalliance, Krause stayed away from rehearsals. And because I wanted it to be perfectly the production she would have directed, I paralyzed myself creatively. By the time we got to tech week, the production was failing.
It was at the first tech or dress rehearsal that Krause finally appeared. And she came back every night until opening. She was eighty-six years old. At first she was on stage prodding, cajoling, teasing -- doing everything she could to spark Shavian comedy in my beleaguered actors. And when they caught fire, she was in the theatre house shouting, scolding, compelling those actors to communicate Shaw out into the audience.
The production succeeded magnificently and I learned mightily. In the realm of "what doesn't kill you makes you stronger", that week-long profound and concentrated experience in creating theatre vitalized my teaching ever after.
In the fall, I began my seventh year at Northwestern and Krause and the BTE started work on their Theatre in the Classroom project.

Are you as busy as we are? We are a few weeks deep in Theatre in the Classroom and BTE is realizing the job they undertook so blithely. Romeo and Juliet, Macbeth, Importance of Being Earnest, Pygmalion, Our Town -- Discovered to their great astonishment that Our Town (oh so trite and easy!) was as difficult as Chekhov if it is to be done with meaning. Suddenly they wake up and exclaim: "It's beautiful"! Oh David, do go after the real force of drama! Actor, playwright, director, technicians working together to create an art that can be a mighty force in this dying world! You can't, you must not teach acting for itself alone. You must teach theatre. Don't be pigeon-holed! If there is no one in the department big enough to do it, then you must. Do you want to spend your life teaching a dead art? Well that's where theatre is going if people like you do not rise up and fight the trend. Your acting class should inspire playwrights. Does it? Well -- so be it -- go your way: let the nuclear forces turn you into rubble. For me I shall fight to the end. The life force refuses to die in me, and those who come my way, better realize it!
Do you watch the TV P.M. show? If you do, you may see me on Friday of this week. What excerpt will be shown out of three hours of class and a two hour interview, God knows. If as the blurb in TV Guide indicates it focuses on "stars" I taught, I shall blow up. That bit came at the end and I tried to toss it off in a hurry. Why won't they focus on what's important! -- Last week I spent two 8-hour days with the Hugh Downs people [The weekly television magazine Over Easy -- DD]. They got quite excited but what will come out of that. 16 hours reduced to 7 minutes. Why do I do it? BTE needs the publicity. Pass the news on to the Interp department. The Hugh Downs won't be shown until March!
Carry on,

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